On November 15, Jay Bhattacharya and Sten Vermund debated the resolution, “Focused protection, as set forth in the Great Barrington Declaration, should be the general principle of public health management of highly infectious respiratory virus pandemics.” The event was produced by The Soho Forum, a monthly debate series presented by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes Reason.
For the affirmative: Jay Bhattacharya is a professor of medicine at Stanford University. He is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Freeman Spogli Institute. His research focuses on the economics of health care around the world with a particular emphasis on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations. His peer-reviewed research has been published in economics, statistics, legal, medical, public health, and health policy journals. He holds an MD and Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. Bhattacharya was one of three main co-signatories of the Great Barrington Declaration in October 2020.
For the negative: Sten Vermund is a professor of public health and pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine. A pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiologist, he has focused on diseases of low- and middle-income countries. He has become increasingly engaged in health policy, particularly around the sustainability of HIV/AIDS programs and their expansion to noncommunicable diseases, COVID-19 pandemic response and prevention, and public health work force development. His recent grants include capacity-building for public health in Chad, molecular epidemiology for HIV in Kazakhstan, and COVID-19 vaccine studies in Dominican Republic and Connecticut. He has worked with schools and arts organizations for COVID-19 risk mitigation and institutional safety.
This was an Oxford-style debate, meaning the debater who changed more audience member minds won the debate. Bhattacharya started with 56.72 percent of the vote, while Vermund started with 7.46 percent. Bhattacharya ended with 81.34 percent of the vote, a 24.63 percent change. Vermund ended with 15.67 percent of the vote, an 8.21 percent change.